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Elephant Rumblings: Minor league realignment could move Stockton Ports to Low-A

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Good morning afternoon, Athletics Nation!

Changes are coming in the minor leagues, with MLB taking control of the whole operation and redesigning it in their own image. The reboot will include a drastic realignment, and J.J. Cooper of Baseball America has the latest details.

Cooper reports the following setup, with one affiliate for each organization at each level for a total of 120 teams:

  • Triple-A: 2 leagues — east and west
  • Double-A: 3 leagues — central, south, northeast
  • High-A: 3 leagues — mid-Atlantic, midwest, northwest
  • Low-A: 3 leagues — California, Florida, southeast

Rookie League sticks around too, in Arizona/Florida and the Dominican Republic. Some of the teams cut from the ranks of the lower minors will become Draft Scouting leagues for current college players, and some of the previously independent leagues are now loosely affiliated as Partner Leagues.

The upper minors (AAA and AA) don’t appear to be changing much, but the lower levels will be quite different. The Stockton Ports, longtime High-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, will presumably be demoted to Low-A, while the NY-Penn League (home of the previous short-season Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters) could be partly converted to one of the new Draft leagues. Other leagues will rise up the ladder to a higher level of A-ball than they were before.

Beyond those hierarchal adjustments, dozens of cities will lose their minor league affiliations entirely as the system pares down to 120 clubs. Some won’t have a say in this decision, if they aren’t on the official invite list that MLB sends in early December.

Others might make the call themselves. Fresno, home of the Triple-A Grizzlies, is balking at moving down to Low-A, reports Brianna Calix of the Fresno Bee, and MLB has issued them an ultimatum to either accept the lower assignment or be left out.

Going all of 2020 without a minor league season was a bummer, so it will be nice to hopefully have it back next summer. But the system will never be the same as it once was. What do you think of these (still-developing) changes, Athletics Nation?

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